Thursday, March 10, 2005

Tax Man ‘too aggressive’ says Isola

Chamber of Commerce

The new “aggressive approach” by the Income Tax Office, which allows no latitude to companies in terms of time in which to catch up with tax arrears is affecting some firms’ ability to trade, Peter Isola, president of the Chamber of Commerce told a sparsely attended meeting of the Chamber on Tuesday night.

While the Chamber believed it was important for its members and non-members to pay PAYE, Social Security, rents and rates “to ensure that there is a competitive level playing field” – and encouraged the Gibraltar Government to ensure this was done – it was concerned at the number of its members “being pressed to pay the totality of their income tax due… which affects their ability to trade”.

It was not reasonable for companies “who have grown accustomed to the Income Tax Office giving time to pay the income tax due” to suddenly be faced overnight with ultimatums and a ‘no deals’ policy, Mr Isola said.

"If previously the Income Tax Office were prepared to come to agreements of up to, say, 18 months - then perhaps they should consider shortening that period and slowly bring companies into line to pay the full tax on the due date, rather than the present aggressive approach,” he added.

The Chamber’s concerns about present and future costs to the public sector – particularly the future costs of pensions – continued, he said. But these concerns, which made headlines in the Gibraltar Chronicle recently, should not be seen as support for the MoD “in relation to their policy of contractorisation”.

“As a Chamber we understand that contractorisation may result in the loss of a substantial number of jobs, and this is certainly not in the interests of our members. MoD must be sensitive to our economic needs, especially after the significant run down of its Gibraltar operation to date. Gibraltar is unique and sensitivity in this area is called for,” he added.

Though the Finance Centre found itself “at a crossroads - with the qualifying company no longer an option and the tax exempt company having a very limited shelf life - the level of confidence in Gibraltar is extremely high,” he stressed. “The number of luxury developments that we are seeing, the constant adverts in Gibraltar for vacancies in every walk of life shows that our economy is buoyant, sustainable and doing well - but like every other business the Government needs to look at and control costs.”

“Thankfully the postal services seem to be running reasonably well, but there is a need to review the costs of the different services and utilities that are provided in Gibraltar to ensure that we do get the postal service that we deserve on a cost effective basis,” Mr Isola said. There should also be attempts to reduce the costs of utilities - “which remain high…with a continuing substantial disparity between Gibraltar and Spain.”

(As far as the postal services are concerned it became clear during questions from the floor that some members of the Chamber did not share Mr Isola’s rosier view of position. There were complaints about “lengthy delays” in the delivery of registered letters and other articles and there was anxiety that the Post Office no longer provided facilities to insure parcels.)

“In terms of controlling costs we are pleased that the Government did not proceed with the Theatre Royal Project in 2004 and very much hope that the midtown development has a genuine substantial Tercentenary Park that we can all be proud of,” he said. He hoped this was “not just an excuse to allow the project to proceed” without eventually “a genuine, substantial and worthwhile” park being developed on the site. The Chamber would continue to monitor this and hoped to have the opportunity to participate.

After referring to changes to the Chamber’s rules – allowing subscriptions to be increased on average by £10 or £20 a year, and permits future annual general meeting to be held “on any day during the months of February and March” – Mr Isola said that this was “certainly” the last year he would serve as President “and possibly my last year as a member of the Board of the Chamber and it is important that new people step forward and participate”.

Four members of the Board whose three-year term of office had expired were re-elected unopposed. They were: E Felipes, G.Desoisa, A.Haynes and J.Nicholls. Maurice Stagnetto has rejoined the Board to replace Bruno Goutland, whose elected term of office did not expire until next year but who has resigned for health reasons.


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